During a Farm to Plate activity, Lisa Carlson asked her students to bring food in and explain to the class how it was produced. Lisa's daughter brought in a miniature potbelly pig to show the other students where the cuts of meat come from.
On Halloween, a boy in her class dyed his rooster pink to be the Fawkes to his Dumbledore.
"You never know what you'll find around here," Lisa says.
Lisa is a grade nine to 11 teacher at Elm Creek School, where she has been teaching 21 years.
Two years ago, she volunteered to teach the new agriculture elective class, where students would learn about soil, crops, livestock and more. The final project is to create your very own sustainable mixed farm.
"It's very ironic," she says. "I grew up in the city of Portage and had never stepped foot on a farm until I started dating my husband in 1998."
She now raises cattle at home with her husband Trevor and two teenage daughters Taylor and Harleigh. Lisa says her kids have grown up differently than she did.
"I worked at Walmart, and they work at an agricultural research centre," she says.
Because of the hands-on work her daughters have grown up doing for the farm, they'll be working in the agricultural industry after high school.
Lisa and her daughter Taylor were able to attend the Global Youth Institute (GYI) for five days, making connections with teachers and students invested in agriculture worldwide. Taylor learned there was more to the industry than raising cows. Her dream is to travel to Brazil and study sustainable beef practices.
"It was life-changing for her," Lisa says.
The primary job market in Elm Creek is agriculture. More than half of Lisa's students have some kind of connection to the industry. This is why Lisa says it's important to teach her students about where food comes from and the relationship between producer and consumer.
"It's important for them to know this isn't some big factory farm you're getting your food from," she says. "You could be getting it from your neighbours."
Lisa says she hopes her students leave high school with the knowledge and tools to help them in their post-secondary agricultural studies and understand there is more to the industry than farming.
Because of Lisa, the Elm Creek School agriculture class has visited the University of Manitoba Ian N. Morrison Research Farm and learned from experts in livestock, soil, grains, and more. She also brings in guest speakers when she can.
"It's neat watching my students come together and learn from each other," she says.
Lisa's husband has volunteered with AITC-M to visit classrooms and bring in farm animals for the students. Her daughters have created a Mobile Educational Livestock Display, where they travel to different schools and events with their livestock to educate people on the industry.
"It's mind-blowing for them," she says. "Some of those kids, and their parents, have never seen a real cow before."
Karen Hill, a Curriculum Specialist at AITC-M, says, "Lisa, a city girl turned farm girl, is a dedicated agriculture education ambassador with a unique perspective. Lisa has taken part in Agriculture in the Classroom – MB's professional development, Global Youth Institute and Journey 2050 programs and integrated many of our classroom resources into her agriculture course. Lisa inspires us as well as her students."